The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to address an appeals court ruling in a case against McWane, Inc. and two executives. As a result, the Defendants’ convictions remain overturned and a new trial will be set in the near future. In June 2005, the Birmingham-based pipemaker, and two executives were convicted of conspiring to violate the federal Clean Water Act by emitting pollutants into Avondale Creek. During the five-week trial, former McWane employees testified that they were instructed to pump tainted water into the creek in order to speed production.
In October 2007, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions against the Defendants and granted a new trial. The Appeals Court determined that the trial judge did not correctly define “navigable water” during his charge to the jury. In order for a waterway to be governed by the Clean Water Act it must first be defined as “navigable water.” The prosecution claimed that Avondale’s connection to the Black Warrior River makes it a navigable waterway. Conversely, the Defense argued that the creek did not meet the definition of navigable water.
Ultimately, the Appeals Court found that the prosecution offered no evidence to suggest that Avondale Creek’s water had any chemical, physical or biological effect on the Black Warrior River. As a result, the Clean Water Act could not be applied and the convictions were overturned. The new trial could be set as early as later this month, but prosecutors are currently requesting a delay due to the complexity of the case.
Source: The Birmingham News
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